The Animals at Heart non-profit charity organization was founded to benefit pets, pet owners, and rescue shelters everywhere. In a recent poll conducted by the organization, 82% of pet owners claimed that they would not consider leaving their pets behind if forced to evacuate their homes. Indeed, many South Florida residents tried to “ride out” Hurricane Charley in their homes simply because their pets were not allowed at emergency shelters. Many pet owners lost their lives as a result.
At Animals at Heart, we feel a pet owner shouldn’t be forced to decide whether their own life is more important than the lives of their pets, so in cooperation with local E.O.C. requests we immediately developed and implemented a fostering plan that would help relocate pets out of the path of danger and into a home where they could be temporarily fostered during the storm. Pet owners across the state responded to the program, and a fostering network was born. Now, barely a month later, Animals at Heart has volunteer foster families registered as far away as New York.
While a good temporary solution, there will never be enough foster families or enough vehicles to transport the pets during a time of crisis. Realizing this, and in answer to the need which still remains for emergency shelter facilities for pets and their people, Animals at Heart is proud to introduce the Animals at Heart Emergency “Home Away from Home” Fostering Facility. This facility, once built, will be unique in all the United States, in its goal and purpose, and will have many advantages over using existing or expanded impound facilities or shelters for emergency housing.
Architecturally designed to withstand wind and storm surge damage of major hurricanes, this “Home Away from Home” will be state of the art and built to exceed the most current building code standards. The facility will be comfortable for the pets staying there, as it will be climate-controlled and all indoors. There will be simulated outdoor runs in an atrium setting for those pets needing to get some fresh air or exercise and play rooms for pets that also need exercise but prefer to remain indoors.
The pets fostered at the facility will have current veterinary records and be healthy, therefore the exposure to disease will be greatly reduced. The concern for safety and health being primary, the exposure is less in this controlled environment than pets will face if fostered at a facility accustomed to taking in strays and unwanted pets.
Pets that are fostered at the Animals at Heart “Home Away from Home” Facility will have the option of remaining there for extended periods of time should their owner’s home be severely damaged or destroyed. They won’t need to be relocated because they occupy space needed for normal operation of an impound facility.
Something truly extraordinary that sets the Animals at Heart “Home Away from Home” Facility apart from any other type of emergency pet sheltering program is the human factor. During times of emergency, the pet’s family can choose to remain with the pet in exchange for volunteering or making a donation – helping to care for pets being fostered during the emergency. Pets suffer less stress under severe weather conditions when their companion human is present to comfort them. This ensures that pets being fostered will receive the attention and TLC they deserve and pet owners are able to remain with their beloved pets in a safe, secure location.
Animals at Heart will make available food, water, and temporary housing for the pets and the pet owners who choose to remain and volunteer at the facility. Evacuees coming to the facility are encouraged to bring whatever they wish from their own refrigerators and freezers to contribute to the facility resources. Foods that would have otherwise spoiled for lack of electricity or wasted while the evacuees were away will be stored safely and used as shelter supplies.
Wait….it gets even better. During non-emergency times, the Animals at Heart “Home Away from Home” Facility will be used to comfortably house military pets whose owners are busy defending our country and our freedom. Risking their lives to defend our rights is sacrifice enough. Our troops shouldn’t have to also sacrifice their beloved pet. Our state of the art climate-controlled facility coupled with the TLC, play time, grooming, and love that the pets receive, gives us the opportunity to say “thank you” to our soldiers by giving them the peace of mind that their pet is being well taken care of.
The Animals at Heart “Home Away from Home” Facility will house the unfortunate victims of disasters such as house fires, floods, severe storm damage, and will also assist pets of victims of domestic violence who are being sheltered at a ‘safe house’ which may not allow pets. Anyone who has a pet and an immediate need of shelter for that pet will be welcomed to this safe haven.
“As pet owners, pets play such an integral part of our lives. They encourage us to be better pet owners, better parents, and better people. A pet in our life can act as a stone cast into a lake, creating ripples that will reach clear to the other shore while affecting everything in its path. A person who unnecessarily loses the unconditional love of their pet will spawn ripples of anger and distrust, leaving a permanent impact on their life and, as a result, their attitude will permanently impact the lives of those around them. However, if you support that unconditional love and give them help in times of need, they in turn will spawn ripples of happiness and a willingness to help that will be contagious throughout the community.” – Charlene Jones, Executive Director, Animals at Heart Organization
This emergency fostering facility is desperately needed and will benefit many in need for years to come, but it can not become a reality without significant support. Donations of appropriate high and dry inland land, architectural design support, building materials, time, expertise, and most importantly funding will all provide help and hope for pet owners and their beloved pets in times of emergency. Please consider contributing today and create a pawsitive ripple.
Plans have already been drawn for a facility to assist pet owners in the NE Florida / S. Georgia area. If you live in these areas, please help support us in building this desperately needed facility. The more help we receive, the sooner it will open!!